Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jon Favreau|
|Produced by||Jon Berg
|Written by||David Berenbaum|
|Music by||John Debney|
|Edited by||Dan Lebental|
Guy Walks Into a Bar Productions
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Box office||$220.4 million|
Elf is a 2003 American Christmas comedy film directed by Jon Favreau and written by David Berenbaum. It stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, and Zooey Deschanel. It was released in the United States on November 7, 2003 and grossed $220,443,451 worldwide. The story is about one of Santa's elves who learns of his true identity as a human and goes to New York City to meet his biological father, spreading Christmas cheer in a world of cynics as he goes. The movie inspired the 2010 broadway musical Elf: The Musical and NBC's 2014 stop-motion animated television special Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas.
One Christmas eve, during a stop at an orphanage, a baby boy named William, captivated by the sight of a teddy bear, crawls into Santa Claus's (Ed Asner) sack of gifts while he is delivering toys. Santa Claus unknowingly takes the boy back to the North Pole, and when discovered, is renamed Buddy because one the elves notices he is wearing "Little Buddy" brand diapers. Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) volunteers to raise him.
Buddy (Will Ferrell) grows up into physical adulthood in the North Pole and is unaware of his humanness. Papa Elf makes him his apprentice and explains that he repairs the "Kringle 3000, 500 Reindeer-Power" jet engine on Santa's sleigh, which he invented when the Christmas spirit that powers the sleigh started declining after people started to stop believing in Santa Claus, forcing him to build the engine to assist Santa. Due to his being a human in an environment designed for the North Pole elves, Buddy is uncomfortably bigger than the elves, and is unable to use the items utilized by them. His toy making skills are comparatively inferior and he is unable to keep up with the elves' high quotas, and despite the elves' assurances that he's just "special", is demoted to a demeaning job testing the toys the elves make. While working, he overhears a conversation where another elf reveals that Buddy is a human. Papa Elf reveals that Buddy was born to Walter Hobbs (James Caan) and Susan Wells and given up for adoption, and that Walter never knew of his existence. He explains how Susan later died and that Walter now works at a children's book company in New York City. Buddy is convinced by Leon the Snowman (Leon Redbone) to go to New York City and find his father. Buddy sets out for a long trip to New York City to track down his father. Prior to leaving, Santa advises him that New York is not as innocent as Leon implies, giving him advice Buddy mostly ignores. He lastly informs him that his father, Walter, is on the naughty list due to his greed and insensitivity.
Upon arriving in New York City, Buddy displays his ignorance in several ways, as he crosses the street at the wrong time, chews discarded gum on the subway station's handrails, and takes a coffee shop's claim to have the "world's best cup of coffee" literally. He eventually finds his father in his office in the Empire State Building. Walter initially lets him in, thinking Buddy is sending him a Christmas gram but when Buddy tells him about Susan Wells, an incredulous Walter has security throw him out, who advise Buddy that he go to Gimbels, where the Gimbels manager (Faizon Love), mistakes him for a worker at the Santa Land section. Here, he meets a woman named Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a Gimbels employee whom he falls in love with. Upon learning that Santa will be arriving the next day, Buddy sneaks in after hours and spends the whole night redecorating the Santa Land, complete with Lego models, Christmas trees, and a giant sign that reads "WELCOME SANTA! LOVE, BUDDY!!!". But when the department store Santa (Artie Lange) arrives that morning to meet the children, Buddy is horrified to discover that he is not the genuine Santa he knows, and the two scuffle after Buddy rips off the man's fake beard to expose him as a fake. He is arrested and jailed as a result. Reluctantly, Walter bails Buddy out, and he takes him to a pediatrician (Jon Favreau) for a DNA test, which confirms that Buddy is in fact Walter's son. Although Walter is still incredulous considering he thinks that Buddy may be certifiably insane, he is pressured by the doctor into taking him home to meet his stepmother, Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and 12-year-old half-brother Michael (Daniel Tay). Walter and Michael are clearly put off by Buddy's immature, innocent behaviour (such as slathering his spaghetti in maple syrup and M&Ms during dinner and not seeming to understand that neither of them are interested in playing with him), but Emily insists that they take care of him until he "recovers".
Buddy eventually befriends Michael after helping him defeat a gang of bullies in a snowball fight in Central Park, and Michael helps Buddy ask Jovie out on a date. In this time, Michael states that he does not believe Walter to be a good father, as he always prioritises his work above his family and is not always there for him. Walter, meanwhile, finds out from his boss Fulton Greenway (Michael Lerner) that his business is in trouble after publishing the flop "The Puppy and the Pigeon" with two missing pages, believing the price of the books to be too expensive for a reprint. Walter helps Buddy get a job in the Empire State Building mail room while going to work with Walter as an attempt to get rid of him because of the serious trouble he is in. Unfortunately, he accidentally becomes drunk on the first day, mistaking his coworker's whisky for syrup, and subsequently throws an outrageous party in the mail room. He goes on a date with Jovie and is able to win her over with his childlike enthusiasm. In an effort to save his company, Walter decides to hire the temperamental bestselling children's writer Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage) in search of new ideas for children's literature. After the vertically-challenged Finch arrives, Buddy enters the conference room to tell Walter about his newfound love and mistakes Finch for an elf because of his dwarfism. After becoming offended by Buddy's questions about how he managed to leave the North Pole and if he knows Santa, Finch loses his temper and attacks Buddy before storming out of the conference room without signing a deal with Walter's company, despite Walter's pleas to stay. This setback enrages Walter so much that he tells Buddy that he does not care that he is an elf, that he is crazy, or that he is his son and yells at him to "get out of his life". Upset, Buddy returns home, writes a message on an etch-a-sketch to Walter apologizing for ruining his life, and then runs away afraid of his father's shadow.
Back at the office, Walter has given up hope on saving his company, when his associates tell him that they found a notebook Finch left behind in the conference room. Discovering that it is filled with good ideas, Walter excitedly tells them to get a storyboard ready. Meanwhile, Michael finds the message Buddy left and bursts in on Walter's board meeting with Greenway to frantically inform him that Buddy is gone. Realizing what he has done and convinced by Michael that he has been putting his job over his family, Walter asks Greenway to reschedule, but when he callously refuses, Walter and Michael tell him "up yours" before leaving. As a result, Greenway fires Walter. Meanwhile, while walking through the streets, Buddy sees Santa's sleigh crash in Central Park, which attracts the attention of news stations and citizens. When Buddy finds Santa, he explains that the sleigh's engine had broken off, and that the last bit of Christmas spirit which powers the sleigh has faded as well. He convinces Buddy to find the engine and help him fix the sleigh. Walter and Michael eventually find Buddy in Central Park as he locates the engine, where Walter apologizes to Buddy for his behavior and accepts him as his son. Buddy then takes them to meet Santa, who reveals to them that believing in him can make his sleigh fly. Getting an idea, Michael grabs Santa's list and reads it in front of the TV cameras set up outside the park so that people all over New York City can believe in him, while the Central Park Rangers chase Santa's sleigh as Buddy tries to reattach the engine.
Jovie, who was in the crowd after seeing the events on TV, manages to overcome her shyness and gets the sleigh back in the air by the power of Christmas spirit when she leads the crowd of people in singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" on live TV, recalling Buddy's statement; "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear." However, Santa is still unable to fully power the sleigh. Walter, who was mouthing the words, is convinced by Michael to overcome his lack of Christmas spirit and starts singing for real. This allows the sleigh to fly higher and Christmas is saved. By the next Christmas, Walter starts his own publishing company with the first best-selling book released titled Elf, an account of Buddy's adventures written and illustrated by Buddy himself.
Sometime later, Buddy and Jovie are married. They have a daughter named Susie, named after Buddy's now-deceased biological mother. During the film's closure, the family visits Papa Elf at the North Pole.
- Will Ferrell as Buddy Hobbs
- James Caan as Walter Hobbs
- Zooey Deschanel as Jovie
- Mary Steenburgen as Emily Hobbs
- Daniel Tay as Michael Hobbs
- Ed Asner as Santa Claus
- Bob Newhart as Papa Elf
- Faizon Love as Gimbel's manager
- Peter Dinklage as Miles Finch
- Amy Sedaris as Deborah "Deb"
- Michael Lerner as Greenway
- Andy Richter as Morris
- Kyle Gass as Eugene Dupree
- Artie Lange as Gimbel's Santa
- Peter Billingsley as Ming Ming (uncredited)
- Leon Redbone (voice) as Leon the Snowman
- Ray Harryhausen (voice) as Polar Bear Cub
- Jon Favreau as Dr. Leonardo
- Mark Acheson as mailroom worker
Apart from snow, most of the computer generated imagery (CGI) in the film was created by Rhythm & Hues Studios. The movie makes heavy use of forced perspective to make Buddy the Elf appear much larger than all the other elves. Stop motion animation was also used. Zooey Deschanel singing was not in the original script and Favreau added it when he learned she was a singer. Buddy belches for twelve seconds, after drinking a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. The belch was real, as dubbed by voice actor Maurice LaMarche. Elf was not entirely shot in New York City; there are several scenes shot in Vancouver, at Coquitlam, British Columbia, at Riverview Hospital.
Elf opened at number 2 at the US box office with $31.1 million, finishing behind The Matrix Revolutions, also in its first week. The film would go on to earn a total gross of over $220 million at the box office worldwide, greatly exceeding its production budget of $33 million. In the US it topped the box office on its second week of release, beating out Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In the UK it ranked #2 behind Love Actually.
- Domestic: $173,398,518
- International: $47,044,933
- Total: $220,443,451
The film received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 84%, based on 185 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The site's consensus reading, "A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers." On Metacritic the film has a score of 64 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Roger Ebert gave the film 3/4 stars.
The film was nominated for nine awards and won two.
- 2004 ASCAP award - Top Box Office Films (John Debney)
- 2004 Golden Trailer - Best Comedy
- 2004 Blimp Award - Favorite Movie
- 2004 MTV Movie Award - Best Comedic Performance (Will Ferrell)
- 2004 PFCS Award - Best Live Action Family Film and Best Use of Previously Published or Recorded Music
- 2004 Teen Choice Award - Choice Movie Actor - Comedy (Will Ferrell) and Choice Movie - Comedy
- 2005 Golden Satellite Award - Best Youth DVD
Since its release, the film has joined the many holiday-themed films which air annually on television during the Christmas season.
- Empire - #2
- New York Daily News - #23
- about.com - #3
- Digital Spy - #3
- Forbes - #7
- Newsday - #7
- The Guardian - #4
- Chicago Tribune - #17
- San Francisco Chronicle - #4
- Entertainment Weekly - #4
- Total Film - #3
- Hollywood Reporter - #6
A Broadway musical based upon the film ran on Broadway during the 2010 Christmas season. It was directed by Casey Nicholaw, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan.
The musical officially opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on November 10, 2010, after previews from November 2, 2010. The cast included Sebastian Arcelus as Buddy, Amy Spanger as Jovie, Beth Leavel as Emily, Mark Jacoby as Walter, Matthew Gumley as Michael, Valerie Wright as Deb, Michael McCormick as Mr. Greenway, Michael Mandell as Store Manager, and George Wendt as Santa. The musical ran through to January 2, 2011.
The soundtrack was released on New Line Records in November 2003 in the USA and in October 2005 in the UK. The soundtrack was certified Gold by the RIAA in April 2011. Having sold 695,000 copies in the United States, it is the second best-selling film soundtrack/holiday album hybrid since Nielsen SoundScan started tracking music sales in 1991, behind only The Polar Express.
- "Pennies from Heaven" - Louis Prima
- "Sleigh Ride" - Ella Fitzgerald and the Frank De Vol Orchestra
- "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" - Lena Horne
- "Sleigh Ride/Santa Claus Party" - Ferrante and Teicher/Les Baxter
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Leon Redbone/Zooey Deschanel
- "Jingle Bells" - Jim Reeves
- "The Nutcracker Suite" - Brian Setzer
- "Christmas Island" - Leon Redbone
- "Santa Baby" - Eartha Kitt/Henri René and His Orchestra
- "Winter Wonderland" - Leon Redbone
- "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" - Eddy Arnold
- "Nothing from Nothing" - Billy Preston
- Papa Elf (1:35)
- Main Title (1:59)
- Buddy's Journey (2:38)
- A Stroll With Buddy (1:32)
- Christmas Medley (2:23)
- Weird Wonderland (1:34)
- The Frozen Battlefield (1:29)
- Buddy's Theme (:58)
- Santa's In Trouble (2:06)
- A Walk In The Park (1:01)
- Attack Of The Little People (1:15)
- Central Park Rangers (2:54)
- Working With Dad (:36)
- A Snowman's Advice (1:47)
- Showdown In The Park (3:31)
- Buddy And Santa Take Flight (1:15)
- Spaghetti And Syrup (1:36)
Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas is an hour-long stop-motion animated musical television special based on the 2003 film Elf and the Broadway musical of the same name. It stars Jim Parsons as Buddy, along with Mark Hamill as Walter, Kate Micucci as Jovie, Rachel McFarlane as Emily, and Gilbert Gottfried as Mr. Greenway. Asner also reprises his role as Santa. The special was produced by Warner Bros. Animation and first aired on NBC on December 16, 2014. The special uses songs from the Broadway musical.
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- Mullins, Jenna (18 December 2014). "NEWS/ 56 Facts You May Not Know About Your Favorite Holiday Films". E! News. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
- Stephanie Snipes CNN (2003-11-07). "CNN.com - How to create an 'Elf' - Nov. 7, 2003". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
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- "Top 10 Christmas Movies". About.com (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2011-12-24.
- Reynolds, Simon (December 19, 2011). "Muppet Christmas Carol tops Digital Spy favourite Christmas film poll". Digital Spy (Hearst Magazines UK). Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- Hughes, Mark. "Elf #7 Forbes best christmas movies of all time".
- "Newsday Elf 7th best christmas film".
- "Guardian Greatest christmas movies Elf #4". HanMan.
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- "SFC Elf #4 Greatest christmas movie of all time". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- Nashawaty, Chris (2011-12-26). "Entertainment Weekly Greatest xmas movies of all time Elf #4".
- "Elf #3 total film greatest xmas film of all time".
- Couch, Aaron. "Elf #6 Greatest xmas film of all time". The Hollywood Reporter.
- Hetrick, Adam."Beth Leavel, Mark Jacoby and George Wendt to Star in Elf – The Musical on Broadway" playbill.com, August 11, 2010
- "Elf Soundtrack". Amazon.com. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Elf|
- Elf at the Internet Movie Database
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- Elf at Rotten Tomatoes
- Elf: The Musical at the Internet Broadway Database
- Elf Tickets